First there was Iron Man. Then came The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Then, in 2012, the superhero summer blockbuster to end all others: The Avengers, which brought the whole gang together in an extraterrestrial extravaganza. Now Marvel Studios’ expansive universe has become the highest-grossing movie franchise in the world. But its heroes do not just fight bad guys. They also grapple with what it means to be a saviour in a complicated moral world; they puzzle over the ethics of powerful technology; and, as in the latest film Captain America: Civil War, they learn how to cope when these questions turn them against each other.
Marvel has spent almost a decade creating a universe of distinct and diverse characters — sometimes fleshing out their personal journeys, sometimes bringing them together as a dysfunctional but unstoppable team. They are all ‘super’, but what really makes them heroes?
Avengers smashes records on opening weekend
Spiderman, X-Men, Batman: superheroes are this decade’s Hollywood money-spinners. But in the box office showdown, the combined might of The Avengers has put every lone hero to shame.
‘Beach hero’ drowns to save stranded child
When a young girl drifted out to sea this weekend, she was saved by the bravery of one man – but the rescuer paid the ultimate price. Should people give up their lives for others?
Nelson Mandela hailed as greatest modern hero
At 94, Nelson Mandela has arguably become the most revered figure of the 20th Century. Nation builder, freedom fighter and symbol of reconciliation, what is his legacy to the world?
In the Thor films, Norse mythology comes to life in another realm known as Asgard. When he is banished to Earth, Thor must learn to live among ordinary humans. Is it possible that other civilisations actually exist? And if we find them, what should we do?
In 2015, Avengers: Age of Ultron warns of the dangers of artificial intelligence. In the film, Tony Stark thinks he has created the ultimate defence program, Ultron. It has been designed to protect Earth. To do so, it wants to kill all humans. Is this something we should worry about?
Computers could destroy humanity, experts say
The rise of the robots is a sci-fi staple, but a coalition of scientists and programmers has warned that artificial intelligence could also pose a real-life threat. How worried should we be?
UN to debate ethics of killer robots
Robots may soon be nursing the elderly, driving our cars and fighting our wars, so we need them to behave responsibly. But can an android ever be trusted to take life-or-death decisions?
Supercomputer convinces experts it is human
Artificial intelligence took a great leap forward last weekend, when a computer passed the ‘Turing Test’ by impersonating a human being. But is this an exciting or a frightening idea?
Captain America: Civil War is the most serious Avengers film yet. After causing massive damage during their battles with evil, the heroes are asked to submit to UN control. Should they give up their freedom for the greater good? How far should they go to protect innocent lives?
Privacy vs security: battle of ideas erupts
Tomorrow, parliament will consider a law which would allow police and spies extra powers to investigate suspected criminals and terrorists. Is privacy an overrated right in the modern world?
New torture case embarrasses the West
Fresh allegations have emerged that western intelligence handed terrorist suspects over to torturers. Has the fearful legacy of 9/11 resulted in ten years of human rights abuses?
Drone wars in Afghanistan as critics speak out
Since 2001, the USA has used unmanned drones to target terrorists thousands of miles away. Are these killings effective? Or is the military tactic destroying America’s war aims?
Almost every Avengers film involves a powerful weapon that has fallen into the wrong hands — whether those hands belong to the Nazi-inspired cult known as ‘HYDRA’ or Thor’s renegade brother Loki. It is a problem that viewers may find all-too familiar.
First 3D-printed gun spreads tremors of fear
Since a Texan anarchist printed and fired a homemade gun last week, the US government has been desperate to remove the online blueprints. Is this technology beyond control?
Alarm bells as North Korea tensions mount
Early this morning President Trump made two phone calls to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping about the threat from North Korea. Is he preparing to attack?
World’s most powerful cyber weapon is discovered
A complex computer virus, newly discovered by security experts, may be the most powerful piece of malware ever created. The find raises new fears over the potential of cyber warfare.